spiritual technology usage

Dear Sixth Grade Girl: About that Technology

11:01 AMHeather

Dear Sixth Grade Girl,

I see you. I see you with that phone. I see you on social media. I see your posts and I see your excitement to join the club of Technology Users. Except I think a more accurate term might be Technology Addicts. Look, I don't fault you for it. I'm right in there with you. I'm trying to use my technology carefully and within healthy boundaries.

Listen, I don't envy the position you're in--growing up in this current age. I'll go all MeMaw with you and remind you that I grew up in a day and age where our fingers did the dialing and you'd hope that no one had a 9 in their number -- much less a series of them. (Ask your parents if you have no idea the torment that dialing a 9 caused... or if you have no idea what dialing a phone means)

I did not have the Internet until I was well into my first job--well after my Master's degree was earned. I did not have a cell phone of any kind until I was 30, and I had no iPhone until I was 40.

So, yes. I'm old. And that might feel like I have nothing relevant to tell you about technology. But, it won't stop me from trying. So please know that I adore you! I love the hope and joy of the next generation. I love seeing you at my daughter's school or in my own living room for God's Girls. 

And if I don't know you--still, know that I love all the potential and wonder that is wrapped up inside of you. Because YOU are God's workmanship and he has a good works prepared in advance for you to accomplish in your life (Ephesians 2:10). 

This all comes from a place of love. I pray you'll listen with an open mind to what I want to tell you about that technology in your hand.

1. You own your phone (or rather, your parents probably do). Don't let your phone own you.  Don't let yourself become a slave to your phone. Don't let your phone have the power over every minute of your day. Don't let it be a ball and chain that you can't go get away from. I fight this battle, too. So, how's about we don't let our phones or iPads or Kindle fires or Macbooks or whatever other electronic device we have own us and control us? Because it so easily can. You can so easily find that you can't leave the house without it or go very long without having that itch to get on your technology and check in. 

Please don't let people see only THIS view of you.


You have a beautiful face and lovely eyes and incredible facial expressions. God knit you in your mother's womb. Please let the world SEE the masterpiece you are instead of seeing your face only behind a little screen. Don't MISS the moments happening right in front of you because you can't look up from your phone.

A few months ago, I went to a Tim McGraw concert at the Houston Rodeo with my oldest son. I laughed at first when I looked at the big huge screen and saw how people were so busy taking selfies and pictures with Tim McGraw as he walked through the audience that they never actually made eye contact with him.

But then I felt sad. Life is happening right in front of us. How much of life are you missing because you cannot put the phone down? The best stuff is happening all around you. It's really not happening in some filtered version of people's lives that they are putting on social media.

2. Talk to people. Don't communicate only through technology. This goes in tandem with the above information. How about talking face-to-face instead of Face Timing? So much is lost when you don't have an actual conversation. When you text or message, you miss the context of facial expression and body language and inflection in someone's voice. Misunderstanding people is a huge pitfall of electronic communication. God made us for fellowship-- in other words, he made us for relationships. That means actually being in each other's presence. Using audible words to communicate, not texting codes like TBH or BTW or GTG.

People are important. People matter. You matter. And so do your friends. Make memories together in "for real" life and actually share a giggle instead of an LOL. Don't deny yourself the authentic treasure of interaction for the poor counterfeit of electronic communication.

3. BEWARE of how technology desensitizes you. Here's what I mean, sweet middle school girl. When you are safely hidden behind a text or a message or whatever mode of electronic conversation, it is easy to be insensitive to the person with whom you are speaking or about whom you are speaking. In other words, you might say something via technology that you would NEVER say to someone's face. It's easy to be bold or rude or abrupt when you aren't looking that person in the eye. You must be continually guarded about what you communicate via technology. Stop and ask yourself if you would make that comment to the person's face. In front of their mom. Or in front of your mom. Kindness matters. Always. Have integrity with electronic communication. That means say and  or write the "right things" even when you think no one is looking. 

I'm afraid technology makes being a mean girl all too easy. Any coward can be a bully through social media, when they aren't actually looking someone in the eye to see the tears welling up because of their comments.

Don't do it. Restrain yourself. Guard yourself. Be careful with your written words.

4. There is a permanent record of all you say and do through your technology.  Permanent. Forever. Yes, I'm using that dreaded phrase-- "It'll go on your permanent record." Because it will. I don't care if it's SnapChat and the image disappears in 3 milliseconds or whatever. There's this handy little thing called a screen shot. And while I don't know how it all works, my husband knows a lot about computers. And he confirms that there are permanent records of all that happens on technology. 

I'm just lucky enough to have grown up in an age where all my impulsive adolescent mistakes were not documented through the technology age.

So any unkind word or hastily written comment or photo or whatever you send... you should just assume it's public. It's out there for EVERYONE in the whole wide world to get a glimpse of, right now, or in the future.

For real. 

Nothing is private. I recently heard from one of my teenagers about a girl who sent photos privately to someone she trusted. These were not photos she wanted anyone else to see.

But guess what? Oh, yes. They were shared. All over. You know the term "it went viral?" Assume that every communication you have has that potential. Regrets and heartaches await the one who is not careful about what they document on their technology.

And, while I know that the end of the semester feels forever away and you can't even think about when you're a grown up... it's going to happen. Wisdom again from my husband: he used to have a part in his company's hiring of new employees. And companies and colleges really do go back and look through someone's digital history. Those "innocent" posts of poor choices in high school or college can actually impact your ability to get into colleges or get a job.

Be careful. You can never be too careful. Don't text your BAE to talk about someone else or to spread gossip. Don't take photos of yourself that might be inappropriate or questionable. Don't retweet or repost crass jokes or bad language or anything else that you wouldn't send to your Nanny.  Use the Granny rule when you are unsure if you should say or share it on your technology. 

5. Your worth cannot be determined by technology. Oh, dear girl. I don't envy the position you're in. Living out your middle school years in this technology age. I felt so awkward and self-conscious and unsure and insecure in my middle school years. It was hard enough. I didn't have the extra pressure of measuring my worth or my value based on how many "likes" or "favorites" or "retweets" I got. 

I'm afraid that would've been too much for my fragile middle school self-image.

I'm so sorry that is part of your childhood and teen years.

So let me say it clearly. Your worth, your value, your awesomeness is NOT measured by how many people like your comment or post, how many people favorite your post or how many times your tweet is retweeted. You are far, far more than the number of followers or likes you get.

Here's the truth. Here's how to measure your actual value and how important you truly are.

The Almighty God of the entire universe, who spoke the entire world and all that exists through his words... well, he loved you enough that he sent his perfect son to leave the glory and wonder of heaven. He sent his son to leave the Throne Room of heaven and to enter our earth as a tiny, helpless baby. That baby grew to be a man who never sinned. Ever. Never messed up. And that perfect man died a horrible, painful death, bearing the weight of all your mistakes--all your sins. He did that for you. He said, "YOU, my dear girl, are so loved by me, the Only Son of the Most High God that I will give my life for you! I will love you to death." 

That's the measure of your worth. That the Holy God sent his perfect Son, Jesus, to die for all your sins so that you could become a forgiven and dearly loved child of God.

It's the ultimate "Like." It's the supernatural "Favorite." It's the mind blowing "Thumbs up" offered by the Lord of Lords.

Going viral, being a YouTube sensation, scoring a million likes cannot compare to the truth that God made a way for your name to be written in permanent ink in the Lamb's Book of Life. Your Heavenly Father made a way to say, "She's MINE. That's MY girl. And she has been forgiven. Because I want HER to be with Me forever, I gave all my best to make a way."

6. Use the superpower of technology for GOOD and not for EVIL. Technology gives you a unique voice and a unique platform. It gives you a way to represent yourself and your beliefs and to tell your story. It gives you a way to impact other people and influence them. In either a good way or a bad way. You can use technology to build up other people. Or to tear them down. You can use your technology for all sorts of "selfies" or you can use technology to love and encourage others. 

Technology is like your megaphone or microphone to the entire world. You can hold it up and let your voice be heard. And that can be for the benefit of other people and for good purposes, or for bad and hurtful purposes. 

How are you going to use your technology? How are you going to use your voice? What story are you going to tell?  

Technology is a huge opportunity. You can inspire and reach out to others or you can shout loudly all about yourself.

It's a huge big world that has grown infinitely smaller through technology. 

I want to triple dog dare you to use your technology for all sorts of good and amazing purposes to change the world. 

NEVER before has ANY OTHER generation been given the chance that you've been given. 

Never before has the next generation been given such an opportunity to make an impact. I believe that YOU and your peers are capable of amazing and incredible GOOD for the entire world, as well as the world of your own school and circle of friends. You can use your technology to spread a message, share love, encourage others, give voice to the needy and hurting,  spreadk  spread kindness, and start initiatives to be world changers.

When you hold that technology in your hand, you are holding great power and influence. You are holding the world, literally, in your hands. It's an awesome responsibility. And I believe in you. 

I believe that you can be wise and smart with your technology. I believe that you can choose to control your technology rather than being controlled by it. I believe that you can be careful and thoughtful with it, to use it for your benefit and to avoid the dangers it might bring. 

I believe that you can actually see beyond yourself and beyond today's choices to your whole life and this big world. And you can keep those things in mind when it comes to your phone.
 
I believe that you can repeatedly remind yourself and your friends that their worth was determined and set when Jesus loved us each to death. I believe you can refuse to listen to the lies that your social media presence is an indicator of your value.

I believe that you can set that phone aside and make amazing and lifelong memories with the people in your circles. And when you want to put a microphone to your message, you can thoughtfully pick up your phone to use it carefully, for your own benefit and the benefit of others.

Girls, now is your chance. This is your opportunity. Take the world by storm by remembering these things about your technology. 

And know that I'm your biggest fan. I'm your biggest cheerleader. I'm applauding you until my hands are sore. Because technology brings you big challenges. And I believe you can rise above them all to be defined by far more than your social media presence.

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